Silent Star of the Month for April 2017

It’s a new month and March’s featured star, Milton Sills, will pass the crown to a new performer. This month’s star is an American performer who found far greater success when she hopped on a boat for Germany.

The featured star is…

Betty Amann!

Betty Amann (1907-1990)

Born in Germany and raised in America, Betty Amann began her film career as eye candy in Mack Sennett and Larry Semon comedies, as well as a Tom Tyler western. When you’re resume has titles like Motorboat Mamas and The Campus Carmen, there’s nowhere to go but up. Amann headed for Germany and was cast as the female lead in Joe May’s Asphalt.

Amann in “Asphalt” co-starring her eyelashes.

Amann played a sexy thief who seduces a naive policeman and both the actress and her eyelashes were a sensation. More German roles followed, along with some British productions (including one from Hitchcock) and even a Polish one but nothing quite matched Asphalt. With Germany’s political situation lurching toward a very dangerous period, Amann returned to the United States.

Amann continued to play supporting parts until the 1940s but the roles were hardly earth-shattering and, furthermore, 30s and 40s fashion just didn’t give her the same magic. Get this woman some false eyelashes, stat!

Betty Amann in “Nancy Drew” (1939) wearing the infamous, awful “I just ate something nasty” lipline of the era. (aka, worst lipstick option ever)

Amann represents a sort of couldawouldashoulda career and it’s impossible to say what would have happened if she had made Asphalt a few years earlier. Still, we can enjoy the films she did make and play the speculation game. (It should also be noted that much of her German career is unavailable for viewing.)

Why you should love her

Amann has a flashback in “The White Devil”

If you want the sleek, stylish embodiment of the 1920s, Amann is it. Her aggressive performance in Asphalt is perfectly complemented by her iconic wardrobe and makeup. She’s an appealing bad girl, assertive and in charge. It’s a pity that her later career did not live up to this promising beginning but we’re fortunate to be viewing it at all. (Insert reminder of how many silent films are lost.)

Where you can see her

Amann’s silent starring roles are not the easiest things to obtain but I have reviewed two of them. (Links below.)

Asphalt (1929) is Amann’s most famous film and for good reason. The stylish direction and juicy role make it a real keeper. Plus, it’s fantastic fodder for your scrapbook of 1920s fashions.

The White Devil (1930) provides a much less interesting role for Amann; she plays a spoiled Caucasus chieftain’s daughter, pretty standard heroine stuff. However, she does get to chase Ivan Mosjoukine (who wouldn’t?) and director Alexandre Volkoff does his usual flashy stuff with the direction.

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14 Replies to “Silent Star of the Month for April 2017”

  1. Great choice! She was terrific in “Asphalt”. Your entertaining review of that movie was the first thing I read on this site. I might check out “The White Devil”.

  2. I watched “Isle of Forgotten Sins” from start to finish just to see Betty Amman. What a honey!

  3. Hi Fritzi, when you say unavailable for viewing do you mean lost or sitting in an archive somewhere?

  4. That riveting dark beauty, and so talented an actress…thank you for choosing Betty Amann this month. Those eyes alone!

  5. You really do learn something on this website. When I saw “American Performer” and “greater success… Germany” along with what appeared to be the top half of a famous modeling shot in the teaser, I thought “Louise Brooks, AGAIN?” And here I am introduced to somebody new; I’m going to have to look for Betty Amman and Asphalt somewhere down the line. The same sort of thing happened when somebody posted just a piece of “Wings” on youtube – it piqued my interest enough to go out and buy the whole movie because I had to find out what happened next.

  6. I love her in “Asphalt”, she is sex on legs! I got fed up of reviewers comparing her to Louise Brookes, I think she is great in her own right.

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